Long Range Box Office Forecast: How the Absence of Dune, No Time to Die, & Soul Affect Q4 Projections

Photo Credits: © 2020 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved. ("Soul"); Matthew Jensen / Warner Bros. ("Wonder Woman 1984"); MGM / EON Productions ("No Time to Die"); Greig Fraser / Warner Bros. ("Dune")

The past week has brought more significant gaps on the remaining 2020 release calendar as the industry continues to wait on theatrical re-opening plans from New York and, to a somewhat lesser extent, California.

On Thursday, Disney announced that Pixar’s Soul will bypass a domestic theatrical release in exchange for a Disney+ streaming launch on Christmas Day. Unlike the PVOD attempt with Mulan a little over one month ago, Soul will instead be available at no extra charge to all subscribers — the same move the studio took with Pixar’s Onward earlier this year after theaters shut down.

Prior to Soul‘s departure, Warner Bros. (inevitably) moved Dune off its December 18 date to October 1, 2021. This had been expected for quite some time as the studio was never likely to have that film open in such close proximity to Wonder Woman 1984, currently still scheduled for this Christmas.

Of course, last week, No Time to Die was pushed another six months to an April 2, 2021 release.

All of these films, previously viewed as the next best anchors for a significant return to moviegoing, will no longer factor in 2020 box office revenues — pushing the earliest goalposts for the next phase of recovery into December at the earliest.

Additionally, Regal announced that it would suspend reopening plans (only approximately one-third of their locations had resumed operations over the past month-plus) while the remainder of their 536 locations would remain temporarily closed until a reliable slate of major Hollywood product arrives and the remaining major cities open their cinemas.

Movies Are Still Releasing Before December, Though

Lost in the headlines of major tentpoles abandoning the 2020 ship is the fact that an estimated 15 to 20 films remain scheduled for theatrical release between October 16 and Thanksgiving weekend — including The Croods: A New Age on the latter frame.

From there, major studio titles like Free Guy (December 11), Death on the Nile (December 18), News of the World (December 25), Wonder Woman 1984 (December 25), and Monster Hunter (December 30) are tentatively planned to fill out the end-of-year theatrical calendar.

As always, though, this schedule is written in pencil. Further delays in New York’s eventual re-opening could put the above schedule in jeopardy once again. We’ll probably know more on that within the next few weeks.

Fresh Forecasts for October and November

In the mean time, the latest moves have added further clarity on how to reasonably forecast the box office through November. Two weeks ago, this column projected a near-$80 million haul out of the domestic market from that report’s date leading up to November 6. That was in response to Disney’s decision to delay Black Widow from the latter date to next May.

Looking a bit further outward now, we can forecast total domestic box office looks to earn between $120 million and $150 million from October 10 through November 30.

Again, models are volatile, but that projection factors in very modest debuts from the aforementioned titles planned for release, as well as a generally stable footprint of open and operational theaters. Optimistically, if New York were to open before Thanksgiving, things could change in a significant way. Last minute re-issue plans from studios, like those of Hocus Pocus, The Empire Strikes Back, and Coco recently, would also sway forecasts.

From there, December is the big X factor and something we’ll look at more closely in the next few weeks. Tentatively, if the above referenced slate remains generally in tact and Wonder Woman 1984 stays put — with a concerted marketing effort and availability of New York and Los Angeles theaters in tow — the month could reach or exceed $200 million (December 1 through December 31).

Again… that’s contingent on the major studios, especially DC’s big superhero sequel, staying put. Those December titles are effectively now the cornerstone of what’s left of 2020 for cinemas.

The recovery era amid this pandemic was always going to take time and have to work within the the timetable of the virus and political factors beyond the film industry’s control. It is increasingly clear now that recovery will extend well into 2021, when it is hoped that the business can start progressively building back toward normalcy in anticipation of (or in response to) a COVID-19 vaccine. That doesn’t mean significant steps can’t still be taken before the calendar turns, though.

As the schedule shifts, this column will continue to analyze and weigh the various scenarios possible in the weeks and months ahead.

Recent schedule updates and the film-by-film forecast are below.

Please note that significant changes to forecasts below are less related to traditional tracking and, instead, more representative of the expected lack of advertising and closed New York / California theaters in response to the delayed tentpoles.

Notable Release Changes This Week

  • The Batman (from 10/1/21 to 3/4/22)
  • Black Adam (from 12/22/21 to unset date)
  • Dune (from 12/18/20 to 10/1/21)
  • Escape Room 2 (from 12/30/20 to unset date in 2021)
  • F9 (from 4/2/21 to 5/28/21)
  • Fatale (from 10/30/20 to unset 2021)
  • The Flash (from 6/3/22 to 11/4/22)
  • Greenland (removed from theatrical calendar)
  • Jurassic World: Dominion (from 6/11/21 to 6/10/22)
  • Love and Monsters (re-dated for 10/16/20)
  • Matrix Sequel (from 4/1/22 to 12/22/21)
  • Minecraft (from 3/4/22 to unset)
  • Monster Hunter (from 4/23/21 to 12/30/20)
  • No Time to Die (from 11/20/20 to 4/2/21)
  • Shazam! 2 (from 11/4/22 to 6/2/23)
  • Soul (removed from theatrical calendar; previously 11/20/20)
  • Untitled WB Event Film (6/3/22)
  • Untitled WB Event Film (8/5/22)
  • Voyagers (from 11/25/20 to unset date in 2021)

8-Week Film Forecast

Release Date Title 3-Day (FSS) Opening Range 3-Day (FSS) Opening Forecast % Chg from Last Week Domestic Total Range Domestic Total Forecast % Chg from Last Week Estimated Location Count Distributor
10/16/2020 2 Hearts $500,000 – $3,000,000 $1,000,000   $2,000,000 – $13,000,000 $4,500,000   1,500 Freestyle Releasing
10/16/2020 The Courier   n/a     n/a     Roadside Attractions
10/16/2020 Honest Thief $2,000,000 – $7,000,000 $3,000,000 -25% $10,000,000 – $35,000,000 $15,000,000 -25% 1,900 Open Road
10/16/2020 The Kid Detective   n/a NEW   n/a NEW 900 Sony / Stage 6
10/16/2020 Love and Monsters $1,000,000 – $6,000,000 $2,000,000   $10,000,000 – $30,000,000 $10,000,000   1,900 Paramount
10/23/2020 The Empty Man $1,000,000 – $6,000,000 $2,500,000   $3,000,000 – $18,000,000 $6,500,000     20th Century Studios
10/23/2020 Synchronic   n/a     n/a     Well Go USA Entertainment
10/30/2020 Alita: Battle Angel (2020 Re-Issue)   n/a NEW   n/a NEW   20th Century Studios
10/30/2020 Come Play   n/a     n/a     Focus Features
11/6/2020 Let Him Go $2,000,000 – $6,000,000 $3,000,000 9% $10,000,000 – $25,000,000 $15,000,000 50%   Lionsgate
11/6/2020 Stillwater   n/a     n/a     Focus Features
11/13/2020 Freaky $4,000,000 – $9,000,000 $7,500,000   $8,000,000 – $20,000,000 $16,000,000     Universal
11/20/2020 Untitled Tom McCarthy Projection (Wide Expansion)   n/a     n/a     Focus Features
11/25/2020 The Croods: A New Age $10,000,000 – $15,000,000 $12,500,000 -48% $40,000,000 – $75,000,000 $44,000,000 -48%   Universal
11/25/2020 Happiest Season $1,000,000 – $6,000,000 $4,000,000 -33% $5,000,000 – $15,000,000 $14,000,000 -33%   Sony / TriStar
12/4/2020 Half Brothers   n/a     n/a     Focus Features

As always, the news cycle is constantly evolving. Market projections are subject to breaking announcements at any moment.

This column will continue to track the impact of release date changes in the weeks ahead.

For press inquiries, please contact Shawn Robbins

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Photo Credits: © 2020 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved. ("Soul"); Matthew Jensen / Warner Bros. ("Wonder Woman 1984"); MGM / EON Productions ("No Time to Die"); Greig Fraser / Warner Bros. ("Dune")